Hard times can produce good
There’s an old saying: “A rising tide raises all ships.”
Unfortunately, there is a parallel reality: All ships are just as susceptible
to a falling tide. In these months of economic downturn, no organization is
exempt from the effects of dwindling finances. That includes Assemblies of God
World Missions, an organization that has been wonderfully blessed by God
throughout its history. But AGWM stands apart from other institutions in this
very real sense — although our missionaries and ministry projects use
finances as a tool, we do not put our faith in finances. Our trust remains
directed toward the Lord of the Harvest.
Some 20 years ago, when Lois and I were serving as
mission-aries to El Salvador, our ministry partners arrived with us at a
financial crossroads. Our children’s program, Latin America ChildCare, faced a
sudden monthly shortfall of $200,000. We had to decide what to do with our
member schools. In the natural, we had no way to keep the schools operating.
But I felt impressed of God to share with our staff three supernatural truths.
These truths, I believe, are just as applicable to our worldwide missions in
these months of recession.
1. If a ministry is valid, God will support it. He will
provide the funds. When I survey the growing churches and Bible schools and
rehabilitation centers and orphanages where our missionaries are partnering
with local believers to further the Great Commission, I am repeatedly
confronted with valid ministry. I believe God will provide needed funds in
these trying times.
2. When God provides funds, He expects us to demonstrate
good stewardship. A ministry may be valid, but if we are poor stewards God
removes His hand of blessing. I am convinced Assemblies of God missionaries are
some of the best stewards of God-given resources in the church today. I do not
say that out of pride, but out of a continuing sense of responsibility. At the
same time, I know that at every level of World Missions administration we are
seeking to identify ways to stretch every dollar in every gift to make the
greatest possible use of it.
3. I shared a final point with my LACC team all those years
ago: When a ministry is valid, and when God provides the funds, God will get
all the glory for the resulting blessing. LACC schools not only survived those
meager months, but also continued to grow. And, to God’s glory, an entire
generation of Latin American children grew up with the benefits of a Christian
educa-tion, nutritious meals, and medical and dental care. Many of those
students are men and women of integrity and influence today. Their lives are
bringing God glory.
As I inject these three truths into AGWM’s financial picture
today, I see several applications come to light. In regard to our stewardship
of the funds people continue to give sacrificially, the Lord is speaking to our
hearts as a com-mittee that we have to find new ways to stretch the money God
sends our way. Where possible, we are cutting back on travel, limiting regional
meetings and reducing special projects. In place of those expenses, we are
prioritizing the needs of our missionaries as they come to grips with more
limited giving from among their support base. We are using our Senders Fund not
only to get new missionaries to the field more quickly, but to keep
missionaries on the field when they encounter a short-fall in funds.
I believe with all my heart God is also asking every church
at this hour to be good stewards of the money He sends their way. When churches
respond in obedience, I believe this will maximize the dollars sent to missions.
Why? Because the Great Commission never moves from its primary position in the
heart of God. Churches sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit will put
limited funds where the highest priority is.
Perhaps it sounds counterintuitive, but I am convinced there
are good things that come from an economic downturn. Hard times remind us we
are dependent on God for all the resources for His work. Hard times increase
our sense of responsibility to God in the way we use that money and the way we
spend that money. Difficult circumstances often bring to light issues we would
not address in times of abundance and prosperity.
Whenever I visit a church and see the priority they place on
missions, I’m grateful. Every missions display in a lobby, every mention of a
missionary’s prayer need in a church bulletin, every service dedicated to a
particular mission field — all of these demonstrations of support work
together to create the life and soul of a successful missions program. Our AGWM
leadership is praying that local churches will also take on this new sense of
priority even as families across our Fellowship confront the challenges of
To someone attending a church that supports missionaries
strongly, I would encourage you to stretch your faith. Make a faith promise,
partner with your church in its vision to reach the lost around the world, and
watch expectantly for God to honor that faith and meet not only a missionary’s
need but your own as well. To someone attending a church with a very limited
missions program or no program at all, I would encourage you to take a new step
of faith. Support AGWM’s Senders Fund and become a partner in sending new
missionaries to the field and keeping veteran missionaries on the field.
Those years ago in El Salvador, Lois and I watched as the
lordship of Christ gripped the hearts of our ministry team and the many people
who stepped in to support us sacrificially. We had to remind ourselves then we
were answerable ultimately to the righteous Judge who weighed the value of every
precious child’s soul in our schools. As servants of God today, even in these
challenging times, each of us answers for the souls of the lost around the
world that our Lord has entrusted into our care.
You and I are at a financial crossroads today. This is about
the eternal destiny of souls, and God’s heart is grieved when we use funds that
could be effective in the winning of the lost for things that may be of some
value but not the greatest value in reaching our world. And I have been
convicted in recent months about that in my own life. I want to use my energy
and my resources to maximize what is of highest priority to the heart of Jesus
Christ. I want to be able to live up to that principle because I know I will
answer to Him when all is said and done.
L. JOHN BUENO is executive director of AG World Missions.
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